Northern Reflections – Loon Family
(scroll down for description)
24” x 36”, oil, 1981
I was honoured to be commissioned to do a painting which was to be the present of the Government of Canada to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales when he was married. The suggested subject of the painting was loons, which delighted me as they are among my favourite birds, with wonderful associations with the Canadian northland. Their ringing call is one of the north's most memorable sounds.

The setting of the painting is in Killarney Park in northern Ontario, and the pre-Cambrian quartzite cliff, the clear water and the plants and bushes are all very typical of this part of Canada. Looking at these cliff faces is almost like looking at a painted mural. Nature has been working on it, building up a pattern of lichens and mosses and ferns. I wanted to recreate this mural effect, and established a strong abstract shape that is repeated in the reflection in a broken-up, many-faceted impressionist way. The scene is placid, but the composition's interest comes from the tension set up by having the loons in the bottom right-hand corner and the overhanging hemlock branches up on the left.

The lighting is fundamental to the effect of this painting. I put almost the entire painting in shadow, with the accents coming from the highlights. The early morning light is striking across the scene, picking up just a bit of the cliff face and the heads of the two adult loons.